Sunday, April 30, 2006

Table tennis and making of gods

Yesterday was a busy day and in the evening, to unwind, I and Charles decided to have a game of table tennis. I lost 15-3 to my friend from Gujarat. Anyway let me not talk about my embarrassment. Here I would like to recollect some very curious things I got to hear. Both of us were talking about our respective states. He told me that in Gujarat, an interesting phenomenon is seen. In that part of the country if you render service to the public, do good to the masses, you are not just remembered as a good, generous man. Within a generation you are deified. In the popular imagination you would become a kind of god. Even temples would come up commemorating the apotheosis. He mentioned about a man called Jala Ram, who, it is believed would generously give to whoever came to him for monetory help. He would put his hand in the pocket of his ganji (a kind of handspun vest, the one you can see Paresh Rawal wearing in Hungama or few other movies) and empty it for the person asking for help. Now in the popular imagination he has achieved a status of a demi-god. Another man Bhathi ji who was skilled in sucking poison from someone suffering a snake bite has a temple built in his name. And it is believed that if leaves from a tree near that temple are rubbed on to the victim's wound he would be all right.

Charles asked me if this was true of Punjab. If it was as easy for people here to appoint and accept someone a god. Thankfully that doesn't happen here because if that were true of Punjab, there would be more gods here then men to pay obeisance to them. The sardars of Punjab are generally very generous in that sense. Anyway, the reason I felt that it is not such a prominent phenomenon here is because of a general religious atmosphere created by specific teachings of the Sikh gurus, who forbade apotheosis of men and designated the scriptures as the last and the true Guru.

I wonder if my assessment is correct.

By the way Charles next time we have a game be sure of a tougher resistance! This Punjabi would not so easily let a Gujarati become a local table-tennis god.

Friday, April 28, 2006

More on reservations

A call for a nation wide stir has gone out. Unfortunately the people who are participating and those who are encouraging such a confrontational stance are hardly aware of facts? Here is a story that might put some sense in the agitators.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Young India!

The students are beginning to protest on the streets against the proposed hike in reservation quota. This morning's newspapers carry that moving picture of a young doctor in her white overall braving the gushes of water. A question however looms large in the background of these images. Why weren't these young students, studying to make it big in the global job market, ever outraged knowing that they are part of a system where young boys and girls born in a certain category of social hierarchy would always grow up to clean their toilets and wipe their floors? That they would grow old doing this. And then their children would carry the baton . Why don't they ever see beyond their own jobs? Merit is only a smoke screen behind which they can solidify the foundations of caste oppression.

Why don't these students speak up when a high caste student despite his low marks gets seat in an engineering college by proving that his trader grandfather had been part of some nondescript protest against the colonial merchandise, which gave him a stiff competetion, in pre-independence India? Thus depriving a more competent student who comes from a lower social wrung, but who could not conjure any such certificate for the simple reason that he is not connected through caste strings to those people who matter at the issuing agency.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

An immigrant at the Post Office

The man standing in front of me in the queue at the post office would occasionally look at the telephone bill and the cheque I held in my hand. He was making the payment in cash. And since the line wasn't moving fast enough- and it never does when you are number three and beyond - he was throwing quasi-curious, somewhat nervous glances all around. After a while he asked me if my bill was too high to be accepted in cash. "They don't accept cash for an amount more than 5000," I said to him, "though my bill is not that much." A look of satisfaction appeared on his face as if this was exactly the information he wanted standing there at that moment. Talking to someone can ease the nerves so much. Daunting places become bearable. And we renew the strength to persevere. Meanwhile, the line moved on.

"How many pay orders are you booking?" The voice sounded like a school teacher's admonishing an erring student who forgot to do his homework. It was coming from the other side of the glass-window. The young woman receiving the payments was not happy with something about the man who was handing her the money order forms. Till now she was working rather efficiently and, of course, quietly. The dark, short man, young and unshaven, was rattled by the imperious tone of the question. "Two." He barely managed to utter the word. "Then why are you not giving both together?," she said almost chiding him. Sheepishly he extended his arm from under that glass edge. She counted the money and in the same abrasive tone revisited the flummoxed man,"Upar ke paise kahan hain?" The man had not yet handed her the service charges. He could not understand her instantly and was quiet. The man standing behind her who had earlier asked me about my bill told him what she meant. The payorder man only had one 500 rupee note which he passed on to her. She seemed to have some doubt about the note. She gave it to Purshottam ji to pass it on to "Sir" who was busy rummaging through many envelopes and files. Meanwhile she started keying in the data. "Anjali what?" she asked not being able to read the addressee's name. The inflexion in her voice suggesting that Anjali for her is the most despicable name on earth and what is the word she thinks should be deleted from the dictionaries, precisely because she needed to use it with this man. The man told her what of Anjali. By this time "sir" had had a look at the note. Mumbling something he threw it back to Purshottam ji who passed it back to our lady of the cash-receipt. "This won't work. Give loose two hundred rupees," she amazingly maintaining her contempt. He didn't have any other money. "This is all I have." The woman had had enough of this man by that time. She flung the forms and the money back at the man who for a moment thought that the job is done. He looked at the forms and the money. "It was for four thousand, wasn't it?" saying she stretched out her hand for the next payment. The man thought she was having a second thought about what she had just done. He wanted to give his forms again but soon realized that he has to find another note and then begin again at the end of this line because by this time man next to him had already handed over his bill and money.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Universal Church and Pigeon Holes of Perception

I wonder what Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles would have to say to the accusation that "his outspoken views [on contentious US migrant law ] were an attempt to increase Latino numbers in Catholic churches faced with dwindling attendances." The media which otherwise is sympathetic to the migrants, would pick the church apart if it stands with the victim. Even though the cardinal is only stating the basic biblical position i.e., to "stand with "the poor, the stranger and the least among us"," he cannot escape the vitriolic attacks from certain apostles of liberal humanism.

The situtaion for the church, it seems, is same all over the world. It faces similar kind of criticism in US as it does in India. Here the church, extending support to the downtrodden: the dalits and the tribals, is percieved and portrayed with suspicion. All sorts of motives are attributed to the work of church in India. The communists suspect the church because to them Indian church is a direct beneficiary of the CIA money, which it uses to create trouble for the communist movement. The extremist organization try to garner political support publicising the idea that the church is trying to undermine nation's unique and pristine culture. The liberals want the church to limit its activities in the areas of health and education, but they also subscribe to the theory that church's evangelistic efforts only disrupt the society.

I wonder what our ecclesiologists have to say about it?